One of the hardest things about losing a spouse is that a major part of you dies with them, only you are supposed to carry on with your life as one, as opposed to half of a whole.
That’s why grief is such a powerful phenomenon. No one truly understands it unless they’ve gone through it and even then, everyone’s experience is different. It’s a lot like miraculously recovering from a major accident as you watch yourself get stronger every day until you look back and can’t believe you survived.
Thankfully, there’s a big payback that comes from such an experience. You are left with a much richer perspective on life. You pay more attention to the little things, knowing they are really the big things in disguise. And you give things your all in ways that make everything seem a little sweeter.
Still, no one really knows what to say when you’re going through it. I learned that a simple, “I’m so sorry,” is much more effective than offering cliché condolences such as:
“He’s in a better place now.”
Oh really? You visited?
“You’re young. You’ll find love again.”
So I guess you’re saying my husband can be easily replaced? Did you know the man?
“I know just how you feel…”
Really? You live in my soul?
On the flip side, I learned that no one wants more than a few word answer when they say, “How are you?”
“Great!” is more than sufficient in most cases. No one really wants to hear about your colonoscopy preparation, now do they?
But when it comes to the bereaved, a simple answer that makes everyone feel close without getting too emotional works. My go-to answer was, “It’s been difficult on everyone, but we have accepted our loss and are doing our best to appreciate life.” It kept me emotionally in check and didn’t ruin the other person’s day. Score one for the win-win!
When Mark’s old college buddy called last week to say he and his wife were in town and would I please meet them for dinner, I became filled with silent tears. It somehow made Mark feel alive all over again.
“Don’t mind if I stare at you during dinner,” I’d never say. “I’ll be looking for him the entire evening.”